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By Tori Uhland

April 19, 2024

The markets started off last week in uncertain territory as geopolitical situations continue to develop. The Russia/Ukraine situation has escalated once again. The fighting has been going on for over two years now with no clear end in sight, and the war continues to be a major obstacle for global economic growth. The conflict in the Middle East has sparked more concern in the energy markets as Iran has made nuclear threats. Despite the escalations in both conflicts, the ag markets didn’t see much excitement last week.

Traders are continuing to watch weather across the country. More rains have fallen in Nebraska and Iowa, and the central Midwest looks like they can expect moisture as well. Brazil’s soybean harvest is over 90 percent complete at this point, so the weather focus will remain on the US and Argentina. On Thursday morning, the US drought monitor showed that 61.38 percent of the US was experiencing some level of drought through April 16, which is slightly lower than the week prior. Parts of the Central and Southern Plains, the western Corn Belt, and the upper Midwest are the most problematic areas.

There is talk of stunt disease in Argentina’s corn crop, which could result in 40-50 percent losses in some of their northern provinces. Stunting disease is vectored by leafhoppers. The final damage won’t be known until harvest is completed in late June, but reports are continuing to lower the forecast for the Argentine corn crop. Paraguay, the world’s third largest soybean exporter is on track for a record harvest this year with an estimated 382.1 million bushels of beans. However, low river levels are expected to hinder their export pace.

Despite the ongoing war in a couple of the world’s largest wheat producing areas, there are still plentiful world wheat supplies which is keeping a top on the wheat markets. Updated weather models last week added rains to the eastern parts of the southern plains, including eastern Kansas and central and northern Texas. The southwest growing areas remain the driest. The only bullish news came when the US Foreign Ag Service announced that the 2024-25 Ukraine grain acreage – which includes wheat, corn, and barley – would be down 3 percent. Wheat area sown is expected to be down 5 percent, resulting in a 27 percent decline in estimated exports, the lowest since the 2014-15 crop year.